As I scroll through Instagram and look at the many posts on my feed, I can’t help and try not to compare myself to those perfect little squares. I know it is something silly to even think about especially in today’s world, but I am sure all of us have felt this way in one way or another. When I see a ‘picture perfect’ post, I think to myself what is really going through this person’s head? How is their house so clean or how did they afford that dress? Do they struggle with irrational thoughts or depression that prevents them from getting out of bed in the mornings? What is going on next to them that the camera just missed capturing?
If you see a picture of me with my son, chances are there is a pile of laundry that has not been touched off in the corner; just enough for you not to see. There are dusty baseboards and my floors are beginning to wear because I keep forgetting to buy specific floor cleaner that is safe for hardwood floors. You may see me smiling, but I can guarantee you that this is not the emotion going through my head. I am most likely frozen by my anxiety yet still yelling at myself to go scrub the toilet upstairs instead of taking this picture. I keep reminding myself to clean out the junk drawer in the kitchen; it has gotten so bad that I can barely open it anymore. I should be preparing dinner but the thought of cooking turns me off and I pray there is a frozen pizza in the freezer. I got burned last week while trying to take out another frozen pizza out of the oven and I must not forget to change the dressing on that either. I have work emails that I need to answer but I keep my laptop in my bag so I am not reminded to check them.
Why do we continue to be so hard on ourselves? Why do we feel like we are in a competition? Why do we continue to show each other that our lives are perfect but in reality, they are not? My mind is constantly telling myself what ‘should’ be done and what life should be like that I often lose control of reality. We live in a world where we advocate more than ever to help support our fellow mothers, daughters and sisters, yet we struggle to accept ourselves. Why can’t we accept that it is ok to be sad, to be anxious or to just not like today? I have learned that practicing mindfulness helps answer why so have these recurrent thoughts.
If you sometimes feel this way I suggest you follow these four tips to help boost mindfulness. I am not going to lie, this is still a work in progress for me and it takes some effort but when I complete it I feel a sense of accomplishment. The fact that I have been trying is huge and I hope this encourages you as well.
First off, make sure you are making yourself a priority, and pretending to on social media doesn’t count. Yes, I know you are probably busy too, but I ask that you at least try. I work a full-time job and a part-time job while taking care of my son, but I am trying my hardest to make it work. Making yourself a priority is not selfish, if you are unable to care for yourself, how can you care for your children?
I encourage you to take just 10 minutes a day to do absolutely nothing. Close your eyes and focus on how the clothes feel on your body, the sounds you hear around you and the warmness of your breath when you inhale along with the coolness that comes out. Meditation apps on your phone are a great tool for this.
Live for today. Try not to dwell on the past or the future, focus on right now. It is easy for your thoughts to drift but if you come back and refocus it is okay. Think about what you are grateful for, it can be for the littlest things but as long as it makes you happy that is all that matters.
Do something nice for someone. The other day I was at a store parking lot and it was raining hard. I saw a mother putting her baby in the stroller but struggling since she still had to get her other child out of the car. I simply put my umbrella over the baby in the stroller and told her to go ahead and get her son, so everyone stays somewhat dry. I walked with her inside the store and she was so grateful for my help. I felt even better because I helped someone who really needed it and it was effortless for me.
I hope these tips are helpful and useful. With mindful practice, we will be able to enjoy our life more and not by what we see on our phones. I realized that if I simply look up from my phone I will see an innocent child who loves me no matter what I look like or how I feel inside. That is something a photo cannot capture, but the heart sure can.